Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G tested on the D700 in FX mode.

A lot of people were a little peeved when Nikon introduced the 35mm f/1.8 as a DX only lens. Nikon is lacking in AF-S primes and there are no wide-angle AF-S primes at all. A lot of folks were expecting an AF-S replacement for the 35mm f/2D, but nope. It was all DX.

To be fair Nikon needed this lens. There was no standard fast prime that could be used with the D40 / D60 / D5000. It made total sense from a marketing standpoint. Making it DX kept the price low which allows for more sales.

Anyway, the 35mm f/1.8G is a great lens on DX. It's relatively sharp wide open and seriously sharp stopped down. It does suffer from moderate barrel distortion (this can be fixed in PS by adding +2 to +3 using the Lens Correction filter). There's quite a bit of Chromatic Aberration as well and not all of it can be fixed easily in post.

At the $200 price point you can't really complain though. It's a great little lens and I highly recommend it for anyone with a DX camera that wants a great little lens for shooting in low light.

What I really wanted to do though was to stick this thing on my D700 and see how it fared using it in FX mode. What I discovered was that it works pretty well, all things considered. I spent a couple of days roaming around Cleveland with nothing but the 35mm f/1.8G and came up with some interesting stuff.

First and foremost, if you want to use this lens with an FX camera, you MUST shoot wide open. Shooting wide open gives you a slight vignetting which is reminiscent of a Holga or Lomo LC-A. Personally, I like this effect and I think it looks pretty cool.

If your image has a dark background the vignetting isn't quite noticeable as you can see in the photo of Morty the Rooster above, however when the scene gets brighter the vignetting really stands out. Below are two shots, one taken at f/1.8 the other at f/11. You can see that at f/1.8 the vignetting is very mild and nicely fades. The shot at f/11 however shows very abrupt vignetting.

One thing you need to be aware of is that your exposure should be spot on or slightly over-exposed. If your image is under-exposed the vignetting gets progressively worse and it's not a very pleasing effect.

I found the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G to be a great little walking around lens. It's small and light and as long as you're willing to work with the inherent quirks of using a DX lens on an FX camera you can make some great photos. Personally, I like shooting wide open and taking advantage of selective focus, although in bright daylight you can be pushing the limits of your cameras settings. I found myself at ISO Lo-1 at 1/8000 at times. If you're the type of person who needs to stop down to get the maximum depth of field you probably shouldn't use this lens in FX mode, either switch to DX mode or buy the Nikon 35mm f/2.

Bottom line. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is definitely usable on a FX camera. Is it perfect? Of course not, it wasn't made for FX. Given the right situation and used as a sort of toy camera for a Holga or Lomo like effect this lens is fun. The 35mm focal length is great. Not to wide, but not too tight. Perfect for street photography.

Shooting on a dark background renders the vignetting almost invisible as you can see in the food shot above so it can definitely be used for more practical applications. If you DX users are skeptical about buying this because you're thinking of upgrading to DX in the future, don't worry about it. It works fine and at $200 you can't beat the price.

Coming soon , my review of the brand new Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ultra-wide lens. Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...


Rob said...

Is the D700 still staying in FX mode so it is a true 35 1.8? I thought the D700 automatically made the 35 a 50 in DX mode. I hope that made sense.

J. Dennis Thomas said...

Yes, the D700 is in FX mode. You can set it to automatically switch to DX mode or you can set it to switch manually.

In the Shooting menu under Image area you can set Auto DX crop to off.

Anonymous said...

That's great pics for camera D700.

I like it.


Black Friday Nikon D700

Svadebniy Fotograf said...

I will definatelly sell my 35mm 2.0 and get 1.8G instead. Great lens for the great money! Thank you for such informative review

J. Dennis Thomas said...

@Svadebniy Fotograf: I'm not sure I'd get rid of the 35mm f/2 for the f/1.8G if I was shooting full-frame. I think the 35mmf/2 is a sharper lens and there won't be any vignetting at all.

Jarda Ch. said...

Is 35/2 really sharper than 35/1.8? I have the former and the sharpness full open is quite depressing on D90, the corners are terrible, I can't imagine it on FX. Moreover, photozone.de's MTF tables comparing the two speak much more for the 1.8 on a DX body. Can't imagine the 2.0 being better on a FX, if it's worse on DX.

J. Dennis Thomas said...

I don't really look too hard at corner sharpness especially on a wide open lens. If you're shooting wide open you must expect some blur even if it's just from DoF.The copy that I had was pretty sharp wide open in the center, but really the point is that if you're looking for maximum sharpness you need to stop down and fast lenses are for shooting wide open.

The Nikon 35mm f/2 is also a relatively inexpensive lens, and regardless it's better suited for an FX camera than the 35mm f/1.8 because you can ONLY shoot the f/1.8 wide open. If you want a really sharp fast 35mm lens you're going to need to spend more money. The Nikon 35 f/1.4 or the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 are both going to be sharp at f/2. The Zeiss 35mm f/2 is also a good sharp lens.

As far as MTF tables go, I don't put too much stock in them. I don't even look at them anymore. Graphs don't mean very much to me. I'd rather see results than read hypothetical numbers.